By R.G. Wilson, F21025
National Senior Vice President
Chairman, Convention and Rally Committee
This past December I attended the annual National RV Trade Show, sponsored by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), in Louisville, Kentucky. As FMCA president Jeff Jefcoat and I toured the new motorhome displays and visited with the manufacturers, it was very encouraging and exciting to see what is happening. More slideouts are being added to the lines, in addition to all the other new technologies. One chassis manufacturer has a new mid-engine diesel chassis that permits a motorhome to be built with a rear garage. We were told that many manufacturers are placing a greater emphasis on quality control. We received positive responses from the management of the major manufacturers when we asked for their assistance in developing hands-on driving training for FMCA members at conventions. In our meetings with industry leaders, we were told that the RV industry is experiencing a 14 percent growth in sales and production. This is exciting to me in view of the overall state of our economy.
My vision and goal as chairman of the Convention and Rally Committee has been to improve the quality of our international conventions while controlling costs. We have done this by examining every phase of our activities. We have reduced the number of locally hired employees and used more volunteers. We have negotiated better contracts for facilities and services. We are still not where I would like us to be, but we are making progress.
Since I wrote my last article concerning conventions, which appeared in the April 2002 issue of FMC (“FMCA Insights,” page 122), we have held two conventions. FMCA’s 27th annual winter international convention took place in March in Perry, Georgia, at the Georgia National Fairgrounds & Agricenter. From all the reports and comments I have heard, the commercial members and the family members feel it was a very successful and enjoyable event.
The summer convention, FMCA’s 68th Premier International Motorhome Extravaganza, was held in Hutchinson, Kansas, in October. Because of the type of facilities and the fact that it was our first event there, the planning and organization of this convention were much more difficult. Our parking crews did an outstanding job parking coaches in and around buildings and utilizing all available spaces. Our indoor vendors had excellent facilities in four beautiful buildings. The motorhome manufacturers were all in one area of the fairgrounds on a grass surface. This ordinarily would have been great, but then the rain came, and came, and came “” approximately 4 inches in all. Needless to say, with hundreds of motorhomes bogged down in the mud, we were facing our biggest challenge. That challenge was met, however, by the fairgrounds staff and local businessmen. They furnished two large eight-tire, four-wheel-drive tractors with skilled drivers that gently pulled hundreds of motorhomes onto firmer ground. In spite of all the rain, I have heard many good comments from the motorhome manufacturers.
Convention and Rally Committee members who served last year are Jim Ammenheuser, F157201; Royce Bishop, F62577; Charlie Bonaventure, F87229; Mary Lawler, F119890; Charlie Painter, F23514; Corbett Pool, F140306; and Bill Walker, F56746. Current members are Bill Gowen, F93847; Charlie Painter; Corbett Pool; and Tony Vincent, F161584. The current subcommittee members are Royce Bishop; Charlie Bonaventure; Don Ellis, F258861; Fred Kaminski, F34411; Garth McDonald, F151700; Charlie Schrenkel, F140050; and Alva Stewart, L23883. These individuals, all volunteers, have taken their responsibilities very seriously, and I am very thankful for their efforts and dedication.
We also have another group of very important people: our dedicated employees, who implement our plans, make arrangements, and work out all the details so we can have a successful convention.
The two most important people in planning and making our conventions successful are FMCA president Jeff Jefcoat and Conventions and Commercial Services director Jerry Yeatts. We made many trips this past year, seeking and investigating potential sites for future conventions. Very few sites meet all of our needs and desires, so we must determine which available facilities most closely meet our needs, and adjust accordingly.
We have selected convention sites through 2006 that have been approved by the Governing Board. The locations are Pomona, California, March 2003; Buffalo, New York, July 2003; Albuquerque, New Mexico, March 2004; Redmond, Oregon, August 2004; Perry, Georgia, March 2005; Minot, North Dakota, August 2005; Pomona, California, winter 2006; and Indianapolis, Indiana, summer 2006.
Members of the Convention and Rally Committee are striving to improve our conventions with better facilities, entertainment, seminars, and activities that are interesting to our members. I believe we have made much progress this past year. We have made arrangements to furnish electricity to our family members who desire it and are willing to pay extra for the service. This is a monumental task and not without problems, but we plan to continue to offer this service at future conventions. We constantly work to improve our seminars so that our members can better enjoy the RV lifestyle.
We are fortunate to have one of our commercial members, Don Ellis, on our subcommittee to give us advice and ideas from our supplier/component exhibitors about how we can improve our service to them. We have a Commercial Council made up of manufacturers and suppliers that meets regularly with us, and they express their concerns and needs. The suppliers and manufacturers that are our commercial members are very important to us, and we all make up the membership of FMCA, with the primary goal of having fun and enjoying this wonderful lifestyle.
We solicit your suggestions and ideas about how we can improve our conventions. I hope you have already made plans to attend next month’s convention in Pomona, California, March 21, 22, and 23. The area offers much to see and experience, in addition to the array of activities we have planned for you.
And it is not too early to begin making plans to attend FMCA’s 70th international convention, July 18, 19, and 20, 2003, at the Erie County Fairgrounds in Buffalo. This is a new convention site for FMCA. It is a very beautiful part of the United States, near Lake Erie and the magnificent Niagara Falls. Registration for this convention will begin April 1. The form will appear in the April issue of FMC magazine and also on www.fmca.com. Be sure to register early for this convention.
For space reasons, we will have to limit this convention to 5,000 family coaches. As usual, we will offer Passports to allow motorhome owners to take part in all activities, but Passports will not include overnight parking.
The drawings for prizes awarded to FMCA members who have participated in FMCA’s 40th Anniversary Member Recruitment Contest will take place at the Buffalo convention on July 20. (For details, refer to the ad that appears in each issue of the magazine; look in the Advertising Index under “FMCA Fortieth Anniversary.”)
In the meantime, see you in Pomona!